Kale by the Sea

When we finally discovered that sea kale (Crambe maritima) is indeed growable in our hot, humid climate, we’ve planted it all around. It’s also been rewarding that people have actually purchased it to try for themselves. Frankly, I’d grow sea kale for the ornamental value alone…a perennial with blue waxy foliage and an incredible show of white flowers in spring! Then, there’s the edibility, both cooked and raw. Also, for us, unlike other cabbages and kale, it has been virtually untouched by the pesky cabbage loopers.

Here is a photo of sea kale in our crevice garden this April, growing in a soil mix that’s 50% gravel, with no summer irrigation. Read my lips, I mean text…full baking sun and no irrigation after establishment. We recommend you never let your plants read the repetitive on-line sites that all tout that it only grows in cool, moist, climates…hooey!

A Concrete Idea

Unless you’ve been hiding under a piece of concrete, you’ve no doubt heard of our crevice garden experiment, constructed with recycled concrete and plants planted in chipped slate (Permatill). It’s been just over three years since we started the project and just over a year since its completion. In all, the crevice garden spans 300′ linear feet and is built with 200 tons of recycled concrete. The garden has allowed us to grow a range of dryland (6-12″ of rain annually) plants that would otherwise be ungrowable in our climate which averages 45″ of rain annually.

One of many plants we’d killed several times ptc (prior to crevice) are the arilbred iris, known to iris folks as ab’s. These amazing hybrids are crosses between the dazzling middleastern desert species and bearded hybrids. Being ready to try again post crevice (pc), we sent in our order to a California iris breeder, who promptly emailed to tell us that he would not sell them to us because they were ungrowable here. It took some persuading before they agreed to send our order, but on arrival, they became some of the first plants to find a home in the new crevices. Although we’ve added more ab’s each year, the original plantings will be three years old in August. Here are a few flowers from this week.

Iris are just a few of the gems that can be found in our “cracks”, continuing below with dianthus. As we continually take note of our trial successes, more and more of those gems will find their way into our catalog and on-line offerings…as long as we can produce it in a container. Please let us know if any of these strikes your fancy.

If that’s not enough, here are some more shinning stars currently in bloom.

If any of this seems interesting, you probably should be a member of the North American Rock Garden Society…a group of similarly afflicted individuals. If you are specifically addicted to cracks, check out the nearly 2000 strong, really sick folks on Modern Crevice Gardens on Facebook

Cyclamens in the cracks

When we completed our crevice garden, we wanted to see if it would be a good home to cyclamen, since they like to grow naturally in well drained sites, and sites that are very dry during their late spring/early dormant period. Here, they also get a couple of hours of morning sun, but shade after that and no supplemental water. The soil mix is about 50% Permatill and 50% native soil/compost. Here are some photos recently taken this winter showing how they have fared. The joy of growing cyclamen is that each seedling has a different leaf pattern…what amazing plants!

Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen hederifolium
Cyclamen coum
Cyclamen coum

Kale by the Sea

We’re now 2 years into our first successful attempt at growing the European Sea Kale, and have just finished our first flowering season. They key to success with Crambe maritima seems to be growing it hot and dry, since it resides in our gravel crevice garden. How cool is it to have a plants that is both ornamental and edible!

Urbanite Crevice Garden

If you haven’t been out lately, the last section of our crevice garden along the exit drive is nearly finished and being planted as we speak.

Previous sections are starting to fill in nicely and really shining this spring. Be sure to visit during our upcoming 2019 Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days, May 3-5 & 10-12, and get inspiration for your own crevice or rock garden.

But, they don’t grow here

We have long admired the Aril iris, a group of dry-land species, mostly from Middle Eastern countries, which are renown for their ability to die quickly in wet, humid-summer climates.  Well, armed with our new crevice garden, we decided it was time to try our hand at these once more, focusing on what is known as Arilbred iris…aril species that have been crossed with more typical bearded iris. In our case, we focused on the 50/50 hybrids, which the vendor assured us would not have any chance in our climate. 

Despite our wettest year on record, here we are, 20 months after planting without a single loss. Here are a couple of photos from last spring, as we await the 2019 show (two center photos) just a few weeks away.  The crevice garden should look amazing for our Spring Open Nursery and Garden days…we hope you’ll come visit. The lesson…don’t believe anything you’re told unless you verify it yourself. 

If you’re interested in learning more, visit our friends at the Aril Iris Society

It’s pretty seedy around here

In addition to spring, one of the things we look forward to most each year is the members only seed exchange list from the North American Rock Garden Society.

This amazing list of plants, shared by members from around the world, is truly the place to find seed of rare, hard-to-find plants for rock gardens and pretty much any kind of garden. The seed list typically offers 3000-4000 different plants annually…probably the best in the world. The first round of distribution in January of each year is limited to 25 different seed types (35 if you donate seed), and the second round, which just went live, allows members to select another 100 varieties. We just got out order submitted, and now anxiously await their arrival. 

We think the seed exchange alone is worth far more than the annual dues, but there’s so much more from tours, to meetings, to networking, and a great journal. So, if you want to become a seedaholic, here’s your path to addiction!

Winter gardens at JLBG

In case you missed visiting us at our Winter Open Nursery and Garden, our spring event is coming soon…the first two weekends in May.  Here are a few images of the garden in winter that you missed by not visiting!